How to Landscape a Hill That You Can't Mow

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Flowers and shrubs on a steep hill reduce lawn maintenance.
Flowers and shrubs on a steep hill reduce lawn maintenance. (Image: Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Steep hills are challenging to mow, but there’s a wide range of low-maintenance alternatives for landscaping a slope. Typically, water runoff leaves soil at the top of a hill dry and susceptible to erosion, while the bottom of a hill is bare and waterlogged. By using a combination of ground cover and inorganic materials, you can restore nutrients to the soil and improve the overall look by adding a contrast of natural colors and textures.

Things You'll Need

  • Spade
  • Shovel
  • Compost
  • Topsoil
  • Ground cover
  • Shredded mulch
  • Shrubs
  • Ornamental grass
  • Trees
  • Boulders
  • Landscape fabric
  • Gravel

Remove any remaining grass from the hill using a spade. Remove only the top lay of dirt to clear away root systems. Replant the grass in bare areas of the yard.

Turn the soil over with a shovel. Add a 4-inch layer of compost and native topsoil and mix it in with the dirt to add nutrients and healthy bacteria.

Plant ground cover along the top half of the hill. Periwinkle, clover, ivy and creeping junipers are a few examples of ground cover plants the will provide a thick, textured blanket of greenery that you won’t need to mow. Spread cypress mulch or another type of shredded mulch around the plants to retain moisture.

Plant hardy shrubs around the bottom half of the hill to add color and prevent erosion. Japanese yew is a hardy evergreen that grows up to 5 feet tall. It produces red flowers and grows well in partial shade. Day lilies, burning bush and hostas are a few other plants that offer thick, vibrant foliage.

Line the bottom of the hill with flood-tolerant ornamental grass and trees. River birch and willow trees can help absorb large amounts of water. Ornamental grasses like feather reed and blue fescue absorb water and offer thick foliage.

Embed medium-sized boulders around the bottom half of the hill to add contours and visual interest. Bury the stones to a third of their height to ensure their stability and pack dirt around the base.

Cover the bottom half of the hill with landscape fabric. Cut holes for shrubs and rocks to fit through. The landscape fabric reduces maintenance by blocking weeds.

Add a 4-inch layer of pea gravel over the landscape fabric. Pea gravel aids in drainage, prevents erosion and adds subtle texture to surrounding plants.

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